The new Netflix series African Folktales Reimagined gives audiences a gorgeous look into a collection of stories set in mystic, fantasy lands inspired by African folk stories. Released at the end of March, the show is made up of six episodes, each of which is a short film created by a different director and producer across Africa.
Anthology series have become increasingly popular in recent years, with the likes of The White Lotus and Fargo ranking among the best HBO Max shows. Arguably, though, the most famous is Charlie Brooker’s dark British sci-fi Black Mirror – and for good reason.
Often called this generation’s version of the 1950’s sci-fi horror series The Twilight Zone, Brooker’s Emmy award-winning show (and one of the best Netflix shows around) explored the potential consequences of unchecked technological growth. While every episode is very different from the last, African Folktales has a similar undertone to Black Mirror running through it, using technology to comment on social and environmental issues.
Take a look at the trailer below:
As the trailer shows, African Folktales has a stylish cinematic look to it – it’s also available to stream in crisp 4K. And I have to say, on the LG G3 OLED TV (which is, admittedly, about to make a high appearance in our list of the best TVs in the world today), it looks beautiful. But what stood out to me most was the incredibly detailed wardrobe that connects each episode (cowry shells feature throughout), and the original stories.
The creative minds behind the show are six up-and-coming filmmakers from Kenya, Mauritania, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. The short films were funded by a production grant as part of a UNESCO competition.
Aside from the show's epic cinematography, wardrobe and original stories, the acting and script can be hit and miss in parts. But what more than makes up for this is the thought-provoking nature of the themes it explores.
An episode that stands out the most is 'Zabin Halima' directed by Nollywood director Korede Azeez, which tells the story of a young girl who lives in a remote village that falls in love with an artificial intelligence (AI) program. In an attempt to escape an arranged marriage, she begins to spend more time in the virtual world but is ultimately forced to choose between the two realities. The story is a fresh spin on the narrative of humans falling in with robots that we’ve seen in movies such as Spike Jonze’s Her and Alex Garland’s Ex Machina.
While a large majority of the episodes in the series have a fantasy, drama feel to them, there are a couple of exceptions. Notably, episode one 'Katera of the Punishment Island', which was directed and produced by Loukman Ali in Uganda, and tells the story of a grieving mother out for revenge.
While Black Mirror fans wait for season six to be released, which has been reportedly confirmed to be in production, African Folktales Reimagined is a captivating watch if you’re after a new Netflix show. Its ability to unpack social and environmental issues – one episode tackles domestic violence, while another centers on drought – anthology series format and futuristic settings make it a visually thrilling watch.
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